Passion to contribute underpins Horizon Scholars’ motivations

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Emerging industry leaders Jarrah Ransome and Lucy Ford are driven to improve animal welfare and shape global food and fibre production. The 2023 AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship has led to an immersive experience in the chicken meat industry for both Jarrah and Lucy and a whole new world of opportunity awaits.

 

Improving animal welfare without comprising production efficiency and profit, advocating for agriculture, growing their industry networks and learning about a sector they may not have previously considered are the driving forces behind two ambitious and enthusiastic young leaders, Jarrah Ransome and Lucy Ford, awarded AgriFutures Horizon Scholarships for 2023.

We caught up with Jarrah and Lucy to understand what is behind their passion for agriculture, what they hope to gain from their experience as a Horizon Scholar and where they see their future heading.

Jarrah Ransome

Tell us about your background and what drives your passion for agriculture?

I grew up in Gundagai, NSW, an innovative regional hub for agriculture. I don’t have a typical agricultural background but my high school agriculture teacher got me hooked through the cattle show team and I haven’t looked back. During school and university holidays, I have worked for local cattle studs, a feedlot and done an industry placement at Gundagai Meat Processors.

Through my work experience I have learnt the power of data and how it drives decisions. There are so many components and people that influence and contribute to one decision; the data is being used along the entire supply chain linking the farm gate to the processor.

I’ve been fortunate to have amazing mentors that have helped me gain valuable industry experience. Two such people are Michelle Henry at Gundagai Meat Processors and Kate Webster at MINTRAC. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunities they have given me and the trust they have placed in me while working for them. Their passion and enthusiasm for what they do is contagious and continues to drive me to learn and strive to increase productivity across our agricultural production systems.

I always envisaged I would work in the red meat industry and go into a consultancy role, but after I met people from Poultry Hub at the 2022 University of New England Farming Futures Careers Fair, I started to think about other sectors of the industry as potential areas to work. I also started to think about agriculture in terms of systems for production, and realised the same systems and processes can be applied to different sectors — the principles that underlay the systems are the same.

In 2023 you were awarded an AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship, sponsored by the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program. What was it that appealed to you about the program and what are you hoping to get out of it?

I co-chair the Farming Futures Committee at UNE and I am good at organising and telling others to step outside their comfort zone, but I’m not always good at taking my own advice. I had started my Horizon Scholarship application but for various reasons had not completed and submitted it. I was working in Moree and a work colleague encouraged me to give it a go — “What have you got to lose?” she said. Connectivity was poor where we were working — we only had one bar of service — so I jumped on top of the turkey nest dam, got two bars of mobile service, completed my application, sent it of and the rest is history.

I love advocating for agriculture; it’s more than farming — it’s a fibrous network of people, choices and innovation shaping global food and fibre production. I am always keen to stick my hand up to gain experience in different fields across the agriculture sector. As I tell others, it’s easier to put your hand up, jump in the deep end to learn and gain experience, than
wonder what might have been.

The Horizon Scholarship Program allows me to further my passion for agriculture through networking and gaining knowledge from my fellow peers and industry. I am also looking forward to contributing back to the scholarship program, whether that is encouraging someone else to apply in future years or helping someone to take the first step towards stepping outside their comfort zone.

I’m excited to immerse myself in the chicken meat industry, an industry that some believe doesn’t fit the expected graduate pathway. I continue to learn about the global importance of chicken meat in the future, particularly as I learn more about research and development within the sector. I am looking forward to contributing a young, enthusiastic but unaware mindset to the opportunities that will arise from working with the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program.

How do you think the scholarship will shape your future and where do you see your career heading?

The opportunities are endless — all scholars will tell you that, but it’s more than that. Importantly, I believe it’s about working with the AgriFutures team and industry representatives during my scholarship to join the dots, taking the opportunities as they present and seeing where they take me.

Currently, I see myself working in the processing sector but with what type of meat who knows. My ideal job involves getting my hands dirty while also analysing statistics and making informed choices to produce a high-value product.

The opportunities to meet and grow my networks will be amazing. Working with industry throughout my scholarship I hope will open doors that I may not even have know existed. I’m hopeful industry people will be coming to me rather than me going searching for them.

Lucy Ford

Tell us about your background and what drives your passion for agriculture?

“Are you a farmer’s daughter?” is the most common question I get asked at the grain bunkers during harvest. Being the only girl working in the yard tends to turn heads and producers are often shocked to hear I grew up in Ballarat, Victoria with no farming background.

My earliest and fondest memories are of freely roaming paddocks in the Western District of Victoria, while Dad conducted land surveys. I have always felt innately connected to the land and leapt at the opportunity to be involved in Ballarat Grammar’s agriculture program in Year 10. I started a small business raising quail for meat and eggs during my VCE and was awarded a Victorian Premier’s Award for Agricultural
and Horticultural Studies in 2018.

Since starting Veterinary Science in 2019 at Charles Sturt University, I have accumulated experience across thoroughbred, poultry, pork, dairy, beef and lamb enterprises, and have also worked in grain handling and viticulture. I am motivated to improve animal welfare without compromising production efficiency and profit outcomes, so any opportunities I can grab in intensive animal production systems, such the poultry industry, are particularly exciting.

In 2023 you were awarded an AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship, sponsored by Baiada Poultry. What was it that appealed to you about the program and what are you hoping to get out of it?

Stepping into the workforce as a 24-year-old professional is quite daunting. The opportunity to participate in a program that will further develop my skillset, especially in professional and leadership roles, made the Horizon Scholarship stand out for me. I am looking forward to attending the workshop in Cairns during July for this reason and hope to be better equipped as a new graduate veterinarian in 2024.

Opportunities to be immersed in industry placements and events will provide a platform for me to apply and further my knowledge. Similarly, I am looking forward to meeting and speaking to industry leaders.

Gaining insight into industry benchmarks, research and new technologies particularly excites me, as these will drive the future sustainability of intensive animal production systems. Ideally, this scholarship head start will enable me to meaningfully and positively contribute to the agriculture sector upon graduation.

The Horizon Scholarship integrates all my passions: community, agriculture and veterinary science. I had to embrace this opportunity to meet and work with similarly motivated and driven individuals.

How do you think the scholarship will shape your future and where do you see your career heading?

I can’t decide! There are so many avenues I would love to pursue, but the thought of choosing just one feels overwhelming at the moment. I am really passionate about the inter-relationship between pet and owner health — whether that is from a physical or psychological point of view. Similarly, I am a keen advocate for producer wellbeing and find great joy in improving enterprise outcomes, which has larger positive community implications. Animal welfare is a foundational building block in both instances.

I think stepping straight into a rural mixed practice would be an obvious decision early in my career, but I am learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Whether I end up specialising in radiology, equine medicine or production, I am looking forward to seeing how my story unfolds.

Intensive animal production systems have always felt out of my reach, so I am incredibly excited to get my foot in the door with Baiada Poultry to explore this possibility. Starting a career in the poultry industry certainly didn’t seem attainable before securing this scholarship, so I am definitely in the process of re-evaluating my early career prospects. More broadly, I am looking forward to collaborating with all agriculture sectors, and actively participating in every aspect of the AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship Program.

Keep an eye out for the AgriFutures 2024 Horizon Scholarship cohort announcement coming soon.

Find more about the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program

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